F1 Santander Grand Prix Of Italy

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Vettel makes history at Italian Grand Prix

Sep 14, 2008 - 3:19 PM MONZA, Italy (Ticker) -- Sebastien Vettel became the youngest race winner in Formula One history Sunday at the Italian Grand Prix.

In tough conditions, the 21-year-old Vettel followed his debut pole with a maiden race win, crossing the line by sinking his head into his hands as he perhaps could not believe what has been an astonishing weekend.

"This is the best day of my life," Vettel said. "The car worked well, we had a very good strategy, and it was a great race.

"But from the end of the race through to the podium it was just amazing. There were scenes I will never forget.

Appearing in just his 22nd grand prix for the Toro Rosso team, Vettel beat the previous record set by Fernando Alonso at the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2003 by almost a year.

Behind the young German, the title contenders endured a frantic race, with Felipe Massa sixth in his Ferrari and series leader Lewis Hamilton seventh for McLaren, with the gap now just one point between the duo.

Robert Kubica is now just 14 points behind Hamilton after claiming third in his BMW Sauber behind McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen.

But reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen is 21 points adrift as he could only finish ninth despite a remarkable charge at the close and in the wake of making three stops due to the conditions.

The weather, though, again caused enough chaos, as it did yesterday in qualifying, that race director Charlie Whiting made the decision 11 minutes before the start the race would begin behind the safety car.

Whiting followed that with another call that extreme wet tires were compulsory due to the worsening conditions.

That worked into Hamilton's hands as the last thing he wanted from a career low of 15th on the grid was an opening lap charge into the first chicane behind a wall of spray.

The young Briton gained one place within seconds of the safety car pulling away as Sebastien Bourdais in his Toro Rosso, starting from fourth on the grid, failed to get away.

When the safety car came in after two laps, a truly remarkable race unfolded, offering up more overtaking moves into the space of 53 laps than had arguably been witnessed all season.

And it was Hamilton who led the way as he edged his way past the Red Bull of David Coulthard, then Giancarlo Fisichella in his Force India before claiming the prized scalp of Raikkonen.

The Ferraris have long been notorious for their failure to get heat into their tires in cool conditions, allowing Hamilton to pass the reigning world champion with ease on lap 11 around the Lesmo bend.

Hamilton then picked off BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, the Toyota of Timo Glock, Kubica and then on lap 19 former McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso in his Renault.

Jarno Trulli in his Toyota followed, and when three of the leaders - Kovalainen, Mark Webber and Massa - made their first stops on lap 22, Hamilton was up to second and closing in on leader Vettel.

On a one-stop strategy, Hamilton remained on extreme wet tyres as more rain was forecast, but it was not heavy enough for the 23-year-old.

One by one other drivers started to switch to the intermediates, and eventually Hamilton had to change a strategy that was ready to yield a remarkable podium at one point.

Reverting to intermediates, the tyre that cost him dearly during yesterday's qualifying when he took a calculated gamble and lost, Hamilton had to work all over again from lap 36.

Dropping to 10th, Hamilton gained a couple of places when Rosberg and Coulthard made their stops prior to claiming Webber on lap 37 to move up to seventh.

But that was where the brave charge ended as Hamilton then came up to Massa, and although the fastest on track at one point, he never made a move on the Brazilian as they started to match one another.

Instead, Hamilton's tires started to grain, allowing Webber to make a move on lap 49, but with the duo banging wheels on the run down to the first chicane, sparking yet more controversy for the Briton after last weekend's 'Spa-gate' at the Belgian Grand Prix.

Behind hero Vettel, the other big winners of the day were Kubica, Alonso and Heidfeld - the latter duo fourth and fifth - who all made their one and only stops so late they were able to make the call to go onto intermediates.

Behind Hamilton and Massa, Webber claimed the last point, whilst McLaren are now within five points of Ferrari in the constructors' championship.

Jenson Button was 15th in his Honda, whilst Coulthard was classified 16th despite retiring on the last lap following a collision with Kazuki Nakajima in his Williams.

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